PGA Professional Gary Silcock has worked at some of the most prestigious golf facilities across the world in a number of roles including St Andrews, Aamby Valley in India and The Belfry. Now based at another former Ryder Cup venue as director of golf at Gleneagles, Silcock talks about his career and the challenges in preparing to host the biggest event in women’s golf – the 2019 Solheim Cup.
What does your job as director of golf at Gleneagles entail?
General management of the golf business here at Gleneagles. But I also help Gleneagles through the golf business so working with all the teams to make Gleneagles even better. My week is varied. I spend a good part of it with the product – the golf courses. Then golf managers as they help with the overall experience. I attend many meetings with other seniors managers and departments within the resort. This understanding of the business and relationship helps golf and Gleneagles, but most importantly ensures the guests have the best possible experience through their stay or best experience as a member.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Building a team, helping define people’s careers and impacting on the whole experience a golfer takes at one of the best known golf resorts in the World. As you progress and your career gets longer you have more to reflect on. I remember starting two Indian golfers as PGA trainees who went on and qualified (I wanted them to teach other Indian pros to be PGA Professional), or the great team at The Belfry and seeing them grow and follow their career. Due to the size of the team I have many good memories and lots to follow. I am now using all this at Gleneagles but with even more knowledge to pass on.
How do you find working and managing a team of ten PGA Professionals?
I am fortunate to work with a large team. You need many skills and different types working in the team. PGA Professionals are on a career path, they want to learn, improve and progress. This is good for keeping the team fresh and it also is nice to blend with people who are in the business for year and do not want to progress. Now we have a good mix of PGA Professional throughout the departments. They are progressing and learning, but they are passing on their knowledge too. They make the team stronger. I have always used this model with the PGA pro as the one that wants to progress and succeed.
How important is the role of a PGA Professional to a golf facility like Gleneagles?
Firstly, everyone thinks that if you work in golf you are good at golf. PGA Professionals are normally better than the best players in the club, this gives them an edge from the start. We also want to make the guest journey better every time. Having career-minded individuals helps this process and they also want to keep progressing. The PGA training helps them on this journey along with training within Gleneagles. We have been able to attract professionals back from abroad, when others lose them to going overseas, we are getting their increased experiences which enhances the team and guest experiences.
What has been the key to Gleneagles’ success in recent years?
New owners with a clear vision for Gleneagles – Ennismore. Lead by a great CEO, Sharan, his passion and vision of Gleneagles cascades through management. The product has improved, which was already great, this has brought in great people. You mix all this with 100 years of golf at Gleneagles. The vision has allowed clear stories of how golf is better and improving in ‘The Glen’ this has been seen with the awards won by Gleneagles. Each year I get my managers to write their business plan, I teach this when tutoring for The PGA in Business management, so I do have to follow what I preach. The key to success: the team, the vision with good communication learnt from international experience.
How much preparation goes into hosting an international event like the 2019 Solheim Cup?
It started four years ago! We’re lucky we had a good book to follow from the 2014 Ryder Cup. It was just adapted to suit the slight changes in the Solheim Cup event. The biggest challenge this time is we actually have two tournaments at the same time with the Junior Solheim Cup. This time we have over 100 green keepers working, which is a challenge in its own right!
How much does it mean to you and Gleneagles to become the first European venue to host the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup?
When is started here we wanted the 2014 Ryder Cup to be the start of something great. 2019 will enhance that even more and we are already looking further forward. It is nice to say we have hosted PGA Cup and also Curtis Cup too, they all add to the magic of Gleneagles. The Scottish Government have put so much into the 2019 Solheim Cup. They are certainly passing on the details and data that they have learnt. This no doubt will help grow golf in Scotland but we hope throughout Europe.
What will your working week involve during the Solheim Cup?
The week is very long but fun. We still have all three courses open! so that will bring it own challenges. There are a number of social events but it is very much help resolve issues before they become big issues and focusing on Sunday night with a winning European Team
What will be the Solheim Cup legacy for Gleneagles after this year’s event?
I think it keeps Gleneagles relevant and opening Gleneagles to many households. We can show the World our “glorious playground” and show case Scotland. We have already opened Gleneagles through our Golf foundation, open event, tuition events this just bring all messages into people homes.